A Paul Gauguin painting of two Tahitian girls sold for about $300-million (U.S.), one of the highest prices for an artwork, the New York Times reported.
The 1892 painting, "Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?)" was sold by the Rudolf Staechelin Family Trust, a Swiss private collection, Rudolf Staechelin confirmed in an e- mail to Bloomberg News. Staechelin, a retired Sotheby's executive who lives in Basel, Switzerland, declined to comment on the buyer or the price.
Art sales have more than doubled from $6.3-billion in 2009, as surging financial markets lifted the fortunes of the world's richest. Auctions globally totaled $16.1-billion in 2014, according to New York-based researcher Artnet.
The Gauguin work was purchased by Qatar Museums Authority, according to the Times, which cited two unidentified dealers with knowledge of the matter. The museum in Doha didn't respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The Baer Faxt, an art market newsletter, reported that Qatar was "rumored to be the buyer of the Gauguin at $300 million, which would exceed the more than $250-million the emirate reportedly paid for Paul Cezanne's ''Card Players'' in 2011," according to the Times.
"How many people have $300-million to spend on a great work of art?" Frances Beatty, president of Richard L. Feigen & Co. gallery in New York, said in an interview. "That's where you start from. It wouldn't be worth $300 million if there wasn't a small group of people out there with billions to spend on works of art as opposed to roads, vaccines, whatever."
The most expensive painting ever sold at auction is a triptych of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon that fetched $142.4-million at Christie's in New York in November 2013. A record $2.3-billion of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art was sold in just two weeks in New York in November.
The sale of the Gauguin at such a high price may entice other collectors to rethink the future of their trophy works.
"It will give pause to a few people who own pictures of this rank," gallery owner Richard Feigen said in an interview. "They'll be scratching their heads thinking they should sell."
Staechelin's family trust owns a collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, according to a June statement from the Phillips Collection in Washington announcing an exhibition in which a portion of the works will be on view starting Oct. 10. The Gauguin painting will be included in the show, Phillips said.
The painting will be shown at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel starting Feb. 8 as part of an Gauguin exhibition and then at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid from March 18 to Sept. 13 before going to Washington.
The collection was started by Rudolf Staechelin, a businessman who assembled the works during World War I and in the early postwar years, according to the Phillips statement.
He was an adviser to the Kunstmuseum Basel museum and after his death, his son Peter loaned the collection to the museum in the late 1940s and early 1950s, according to the Phillips statement.
The family trust is ending its loan to the Kunstmuseum. The main building of the museum has closed for renovations and will reopen in April 2016, according to its website.
The museum "profoundly regrets the sale of the painting ''Nafea'' by Paul Gauguin as well as the Rudolf Staechelin Family Trust's decision that the remaining works that had been on deposit at the Kunstmuseum Basel for many years will not return to Basel after exhibitions in Madrid and Washington," the museum said in a statement. "These works, which had been integral to our exhibitions, will be sorely missed at the Kunstmuseum, and we are painfully reminded that permanent loans are still loans."
Mr. Staechelin, who is the grandson of the businessman, said in his e-mail that the family trust sold the Gauguin for "different reasons, good market, better asset allocaiton (over 90% of our family assets are paintings), different opinions with local authorities."
The sale will be completed in January 2016 after the exhibition in Washington, Mr. Staechelin said.